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Should You Cover Chicken When Grilling?

You’re at the grill, ready to cook up some chicken. But before you put that bird on the grates, you wonder: should I cover it while it cooks?

It’s a common question and one that doesn’t have a straightforward answer.

It depends on what kind of chicken you’re cooking, and what kind of flavor you want to achieve.

Let’s dive into the reason why you should or shouldn’t cover your chicken when grilling.

Grilled bone-in chicken thighs on a black plate

Reasons why you should cover chicken when grilling

The debate of whether to cover chicken while grilling is one that has been around for years.

Some say that it produces juicier chicken, while others claim that it prevents the skin from getting crispy. So, what’s the real story?

When grilling chicken, covering the grill creates an oven-like environment that helps to evenly cook the chicken. This is especially important when the chicken is thicker than ¾ inches.

The cover helps trap heat and prevent the chicken from drying out or overcooking, ensuring the inside of the chicken is cooked and moist.

Additionally, leaving the skin on chicken before grilling helps to insulate the meat and lock in the flavor.

When you butterfly a whole chicken it can also be grilled, which results in faster cooking time and more even cooking.

Therefore, covering the grill when grilling chicken helps to cook the chicken evenly, avoids dryness, and locks in flavor.

Reasons why you grill chicken with the lid open?

When grilling chicken that is thin or tenderized pieces that are ¾ inch thick or less, the lid should be open when cooking.

This allows the heat to be more concentrated at the bottom of the grill and allows for a crispy, caramelized exterior without overcooking the center.

For thicker pieces, the lid should be closed as it creates a sealed, oven-like environment that will help cook the food evenly on all sides.

Another thing to consider when grilling chicken with the skin on is which side goes down on the grill grates. I have a post that goes over grilling chicken with the skin side up or down.

How long should chicken be grilled for?

Grilling is a popular cooking method for meat that results in a crispy, browned exterior, and a juicy, tender interior.

I have an entire post that goes more in-depth on how long do you cook chicken on the grill if you want to learn more.

The key to achieving this level of flavor and texture is to grill chicken over a hot and direct flame. The length of time that chicken needs to be grilled will depend on the cut of meat.

A whole hen should be grilled for 18 to 25 minutes per pound, while bone-in chicken pieces such as legs, thighs, and breasts should be cooked for 10 to 15 minutes per side, and boneless chicken breasts need just 6-8 minutes per side.

Try out my grilled bone-in chicken breast recipe, it’s easy to make and will be juicy and tender.


The ideal grill temperature for grilling chicken is around 350 degrees Fahrenheit or medium-high heat. For a charcoal grill, move the coals to one half of the grill, and for a gas grill, turn one set of burners to high and the other set to low.

According to the USDA, chicken should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit regardless of cut, which should be measured using a meat thermometer.

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